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Study Results Lead to Better Treatment of Urinary Tract Diseases in Pets

By Kelley Weir

One of the hardest parts about caring for pets is that they can’t tell us when they’re sick. But with a careful eye, you can notice when your pet suffers from disease conditions affecting the urinary tract. The most common of these conditions are urinary tract infections (UTIs) and urinary bladder stones, both of which are painful illnesses that can result in severe complications if left untreated.

Statistically, UTIs affect more dogs than cats and are more frequently diagnosed in female pets—because females have a shorter, wider urethra that allows easier access for bacteria to ascend into the bladder. Although UTIs occur in young and middle-aged cats, they occur most frequently in older cats.

Urinary bladder stones are most frequently diagnosed in middle-aged pets. Although both males and females can develop stones, they tend to be more of a problem in males because of their longer, narrower urethra, which makes it more likely the stones will get trapped and obstruct the outflow of urine. Frequently, urinary bladder stones and UTIs are found together.

Following are some of the signs your dog or cat may exhibit if it has a UTI or urinary bladder stones (visit your veterinarian if your pet exhibits any of these signs):

  • Straining or pain while urinating or difficulty urinating
  • Blood in the urine
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Urination in inappropriate places
  • Tender lower abdomen (in the area of the bladder)
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

To address these painful conditions, Morris Animal Foundation funded three studies, one that will help your veterinarian better treat UTIs and two that will help prevent bladder stones.

Finding a Better Treatment for UTIs

The most common cause of UTIs is infection by Escherichia coli (E.coli), a common bacterium that normally inhabits the intestines. The increasing resistance of E. coli (and other bacteria) to antibiotics and antimicrobial drugs is becoming a challenge for the veterinary profession and could limit future treatment options for dogs and cats. Researchers at Auburn University are investigating drug resistance in E. coli by evaluating hundreds of E. coli samples collected from dogs and cats to document the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance and to determine which specific drugs are ineffective. To date, they have tested 1,260 E. coli samples. Initial tests reveal that the percent of samples that are resistant to routinely prescribed antibiotics ranges from a low of zero to a high of 62.5 percent, depending on the antibiotic. Researchers have also surveyed 230 veterinarians to collect clinical information on patients with E. coli infections, including pertinent history of the infection and prescribing behaviors. These data will be used to identify demographics and risk factors of emerging drug resistance. The analyses and conclusions based on this study will improve guidelines for effectively treating E. coli infections.

Prevention of Bladder Stones

In cats, about 5 percent of urinary stones are made of urate, making urate stones the third most common stones that form in the feline urinary tract. Understanding what causes urate stones to form is essential to developing effective therapies to manage the disease and prevent recurrence.

Dr. Jody Lulich, from the University of Minnesota, hypothesized that cats that form urate stones have higher concentrations of purine metabolites (e.g., uric acid, hypoxanthine, xanthine) in their blood and urine compared with healthy cats. He and his team confirmed that an increased concentration of uric acid is a risk factor for urate stone formation. This finding confirms that dietary and medicinal therapies help reduce the incidence of this painful condition in cats. This information may also be used to define abnormalities that lead to stone formation so that more effective therapies can be developed in the future.

In another recently completed study, Dr. Michael Murtaugh, also from the University of Minnesota, looked at calcium oxalate stones in dogs, which occur when a dog has an excessive amount of urinary oxalate. Other species that aren’t susceptible to oxalate stones appear to have certain bacteria in their gut that degrade the oxalate. Dr. Murtaugh and his team studied these bacteria to determine their association with the development of urinary stones in dogs.

They determined that healthy dogs have higher quantities of three bacteria that degrade oxalate. Dr. Murtaugh now hopes to develop a probiotic containing bacteria that is capable of degrading oxalate and preventing formation of oxalate urinary stones. These results could help scientists develop a new therapy for managing this type of urinary stone in dogs.

This project also provided hands-on training for a veterinarian who is interested in pursuing a research career.

Morris Animal Foundation is proud to fund studies like these to provide hope and find cures for diseases that affect our pets.

Click here to support Morris Animal Foundation’s efforts to help our pets live longer, healthier lives.


Posted by on April 13, 2011.

Categories: Animal health, Cat health, Dog health

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Submitted by Eleni at: April 14, 2011
Very informative and thought provoking. Having had dogs for over 40 and more than a few UTI cases, I'm happy to see something more scientific than "cranberry" discussed.
Submitted by Anonymous at: April 14, 2011
Not too scientific, but then having had animals for 40 and reading up on their care including dealing with UTIs I found this enlightening. Not helpful in that there is no "home remedy" but does indicate why the vets need urine sample to determine what type of UTI or stone is the problem. Learning E.coli is to blame is frightening as it is indeed become dog resistant, further proof running to the doc or vet for "something-anything" isn't a good idea.
Submitted by Darlene at: April 14, 2011
I agree - it was too scientific for me also. My vet has also told me that I should be feeding my 8 yr. old female Peaches and 1 1/2 yr. old male, Fredo, wet food but I can't get them to eat it. How do you do it? I have tried all different kinds and maybe I'm just not letting them get hungry enough but if they go a couple days not eating much of the wet, I end up throwing it out and giving them dry. I am just afraid they won't get enough nutrition.
Submitted by Shari Silk at: April 13, 2011
The cure for UTIs is a species appropriate diet. There is no way a dog or cat can compensate for the lack of moisture in dry food. Cats in particular are not designed to gulp huge quantities of water; in nature they get almost all from the prey they eat. Cats are also not equipped to deal with grains, and the food manufacturing process is what creates a lot of bad bacteria.
Submitted by Jessica at: April 13, 2011
My 7 year old MALE cat "Kitten" suffers from this. We had our ONLY big scare when he was 3 years old. One evening after we got home from work, we found him crying in pain. We rushed him to the ER and $2,000 later, they removed his blockage. 4 years later, we haven't had any problems. What's our success? We immediately got him OFF dry food. (It's hard especially since he begs for it) He gets one or two as a treat, but that's it! He ONLY eats orangic brand wet food (Blue Buffalo/Avoderm). And to that I ADD MORE WATER. I also check his bladder daily by applying slight pressure. If he flinches, I give him what I lovingly call, "Water Down The Throat". It sounds terrible, but he tolerates it. Pick up a medicine dropper from your local pharmacy. I got mine for free. I fill up 3 droppers full of water. I hold him and squirt the water into the corner of his mouth. It's usally a lot of water, so I burp him like a little child after. My husband thinks I'm a nut, but Kitten loves it! LOL!!! I wish this article spoke more about specific diet and not get all scientific.